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It's vital to meet mental health care needs

By BY DAVID WAY
Nov. 22, 2012 at 5:22 a.m.

David Way

If we are going to truly help people with mental illness live a quality life, we must factor housing into the treatment equation. Yes, housing is an essential component of health. Gulf Bend Center has provided various forms of housing supports for 40 years. The challenge always is how to finance it. Today, there seems to be a way to make housing possible and on a scale that we would not have dreamed of a few years ago.

In December 2011, Texas was awarded approval of an 1115 Healthcare Transformation Waiver. For the purpose of this conversation, we will focus on the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payments (DSRIP). Gulf Bend Center, along with the other 37 community centers across Texas, is eligible for incentive payments when we develop programs or new strategies that enhance access to health care, increase the quality of care, improve cost-effectiveness of care provided and demonstrate better health outcomes for our patients and their families. Our strategy is to integrate health care, bringing behavioral health and primary care together in a community living environment. We call it our Wellness Community; an integrated health care and housing program. We will build a single-story apartment style complex. We continue to research current demand for the service, therefore we do not have a number of units at this point.

We will build on the programming we offer today. Gulf Bend Center proposes to enhance its current mental health crisis respite and housing program. We will transition from a pure residential program to a fully integrated wellness housing program. This program and service model is built on the idea that wellness starts at home. The integrated wellness housing program will provide individuals with multiple diagnoses (mental illness, primary chronic disease and/or substance use) a living situation that teaches them to manage their illnesses and shape new health behaviors. Along with psychiatric services, the resident will also receive routine primary care, smoking cessation programming, dietary training and engage in healthy recreational activities.

A unique component to this housing model will be the use of televideo medicine. Recognizing the majority of these individuals have difficulty accessing services, the use of televideo enables medical services to be delivered on site in a cost effective manner.

Individuals suffering with mental illness and co-occurring medical conditions need stable housing and need quality health care. Meeting this need increases lifespan while reducing more expensive care, such as hospital emergency room care and/or incarceration. Gulf Bend Center's 2010-11 community needs assessment identified crisis respite and housing as a critical needs.

Co-occurring mental and physical health issues are common in the general population, but are significant for persons with serious mental illness. Data shows, on average, more than 68 percent of adults with a mental disorder had at least one medical condition, and 29 percent of those with a medical disorder also had a mental health condition. People with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are up to three times more likely to have three or more chronic conditions compared to people without these disorders. By targeting high risk populations, our community offers individuals with mental illness, chronic disease and intellectual disabilities a real 'medical' home. Our community offers several living situations; brief respite, transitional, and permanent housing. Community based integrated services include: •  Onsite rehabilitative skills training targeting mental illness skills training

•  Supported housing services to include living skills, payee services and community inclusion/transition support

•  24-hour crisis respite support

•  Televideo pharmacological management

•  Primary care

•  Dietary services (meal planning and education)

•  Community social activities

We are very optimistic about the future of health care. Our goal is to be a part of the solution. We are committed to working with our community stakeholders to find ways to improve the quality of life for those dealing with mental illness or developmental disorders.

David Way is the Associate Executive Director and Corporate Integrity Officer with the Gulf Bend Center. Readers can contact the Gulf Bend Center with questions or comments at 361-575-0611. 361-550-0549.

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